Sony is positioning Horizon Zero Dawn to be the next big exclusive IP for PlayStation. Judging by the buzz the game has managed to generate, it just might work. With the game launching so soon, on February 28, you might be wondering if there’s anything about this post-apocalyptic open-world you might have missed. Read along to find out.
Here’s everything you need to know about Horizon Zero Dawn.
Horizon developer Guerrilla Games is best known for its work on the Killzone franchise. The earliest rumblings we heard about a new IP from the developer came in March 2012, when the team’s Studio Art Director mentioned they had a non-Killzone game in the works. He also explained the interesting pitching process Guerrilla goes through as they figure out what game to work on next.
It wasn’t until the latter part of 2013 that Guerrilla began dropping hints about Horizon with the press. Speaking with Eurogamer, Guerrilla lead designer Eric Boltjes said, “As a studio we do want to branch out and we have started work on a new IP, something completely different to Killzone. I don't want to say anything about it right now, but as a studio we do want to keep it fresh."
The video game industry is as secretive as they come, but that doesn’t stop leaks from trickling out. So when concept art for Horizon Zero Dawn leaked onto a Chinese forum, people weren’t entirely sure they were real. Seeing as the images depicted a red-haired woman fighting mechanical dinosaurs, it’s now clear they were indeed legit.
Despite all the hints and rumors, by the days leading up to E3 2015, we still didn’t have official confirmation from Sony that Horizon existed. Then word got out that Guerrilla Games had registered a handful of Horizon domains, which seemed to put the rumors to rest.
Sure enough, just two days later, during Sony’s E3 2015 press conference, the company pulled back the curtain on Horizon, announcing the game with a hype-inducing trailer. It looked like a bold new IP, and it had Sony bigwig Shuhei Yoshida frickin’ stoked.
In a behind-closed-doors demo at E3 2015, we got our first close look at the newly-announced Horizon. In it, you play as Aloy, a warrior who has a special bond with the robotic beasts she hunts. We learned that it’s a true open-world game that contains elements like crafting, a leveling system, and the ability to set intricate traps to take down your mechanical prey.
Aside from those basics, Guerrilla was pretty tight-lipped about the game’s story, though they said our Rewind Theater footage unearthed some interesting hints. Regardless, the gaming industry liked what it had seen so much that it gave Horizon the Best Original Game award at the Game Critics Awards.
Though we knew Horizon would be set in an open world at this point, we were still in the dark regarding many of the details. In July 2015, we got a big hint when Guerrilla studio art director Jan Bart Van Beek, told GamesRadar, “The core of the game is a single player experience.” He went on to say that “certain social features” would be included.
Though Guerrilla gave the media a close look at Horizon Zero Dawn during E3 2015, it wasn’t until Paris Games Week in October that they made the demo video public. Here’s the 8-minute gameplay segment they showed.
The next Horizon news to land was the release date, announced during E3 2016. Though the developers had originally planned for a 2016 launch, the game ended up being pushed to February 28, 2017. According to Guerrilla Games Managing Director Hermen Hulst writing on the PlayStation Blog, the delay ”wasn’t an easy choice to make," but "the new date affords us the extra time required to deliver fully on our ambitious vision for Horizon Zero Dawn."
To help ease the pain of the delay, Guerrilla released a fresh trailer for the game.
Also during E3 2016, Guerrilla got into the nitty gritty about what players can expect from Horizon’s special editions and preorder bonuses.
A $120 Collector’s Edition of the game contains a Steelbook case, a 9-inch statue of Aloy, a 48-page artbook, and a dynamic PS4 theme, along with a heap of in-game packs that offer special weapons and outfit mods.
Anyone who preorders the game will get a “Nora Machine Trapper Pack,” which includes weapon and outfit modifications, as well as ammo and trap crafting items. If you preorder the game at GameStop or EB, you’ll also get a more accurate bow and an outfit with better camouflage.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s Digital Limited Edition costs $70 and includes two bonus resources packs, two outfits and two weapons.
During E3 2016, we sat down with Horizon lead writer John Gonzalez to ask some questions about the game’s story. While he kept some cards close to the vest, Gonzalez offered up a few hints and satisfying morsels. For instance, much off the game revolves around figuring out why Aloy was shunned at birth. Also, you’ll face more enemies than just robotic dinosaurs; some humans have it out for you as well. The game also has a number of tribes, each with its own story arcs and side quests you can complete.
Regarding the game’s cryptic title, Gonzalez promised you’ll know exactly why the game is called Horizon Zero Dawn by the time the credits roll.
Next, we went hands-on with the game and came away with a whole bunch of new information. Among the surprises were how incredibly large the game world is and how loot-hungry we became once we started taking down the mechanical beasts.
After the conference, we gave out our Best of E3 2016 awards to see how the games stacked up. Horizon Zero Dawn ended up winning our Best PlayStation 4 Game of the show.
In December 2016, Sony announced that the UK version of Horizon Zero Dawn will launch on March 1 instead of the original release date of March 3. The slight bump hasn’t affected any other regions, so North American gamers will still be able to play the game on February 28, 2017.
During our final hands-on with Horizon, we marveled at how well-tuned the game’s open world seems to be. Rather than constantly having to consult a list of side-quests to find something to do in the game, new curiosities seemed to emerge organically during play. When a robotic beast lumbered by, for instance, editor Joe Skrebels decided to climb onto its head to hack into it. When he did, a new chunk of the map opened up and showed that a previously unknown robot species lurked on the far side of a hill, making him want to investigate further.
Earlier this month, what seems to be a map of Horizon’s open world leaked online, showing three major areas: Sunfall, Meridian, and Mother’s Heart. What’s clear is that this game is huge.
Chris Reed is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @_chrislreed.